updated 7/23/2009 6:33:20 PM ET 2009-07-23T22:33:20

Police say they are investigating whether the deaths of three teenage sisters and a 52-year-old woman found in a submerged car in a canal last month were an "honor killing" by relatives.

Kingston Police Chief Stephen Tanner said Thursday that a father, his wife and their son are charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

The bodies of the three sisters and the man's first wife were found in the car in the Rideau Canal near Kingston, Ontario, on June 30.

Police declined to say what they think the motive was but Tanner said one overseas family member believes it could be an "honor killing."

Tanner said the girls were living as "Canadian teenagers."

"In our Canadian society we value the cultural values of everyone that makes up this great country and some of us have different core beliefs, different family values, different sets of rules, and certainly, these individuals, in particular the three teenagers, were Canadian teenagers who have all the freedom and rights of expression of all Canadians," Tanner said.

"So whether that was a part of a motive within the family based on one ... or more of the girls' behavior is open to a little bit of speculation."

Family moved to Canada two years ago
The family, originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, spent 15 years in Dubai before moving to Montreal two years ago.

The accused are Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya Shafia and his 18-year-old son Hamed Mohammad-Shafia.

Mohammad Shafia had told police the deaths occurred as the family was headed home after vacationing in Niagara Falls and had stopped for the night at a Kingston hotel.

He said the family was traveling in two cars and that he awoke to find one car missing. He reported the car missing to police and said his eldest daughter was known to take the family car without permission or a license.

Police said their investigation proved that allegation to be false, and that in fact all three accused had operated the vehicle that wound up in the canal.

"All shared the rights within our great country to live without fear, to enjoy safety and freedom ... and yet had their lives cut short by members of their own family," Tanner said.

The victims are Zainab Shafia, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammad.

Both parents described the eldest, Zainab, as a rebellious young woman.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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